Launching the report, Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “Our democracy is facing a crisis if we do not take urgent action to make elections more accessible to the public and convince them that it is worth voting. Turnout for the last general election was only 65%—almost 16 million voters chose not to participate—and millions of people are not even registered to vote. This is not an acceptable state of affairs for a modern democracy. The fact that almost 85% of people turned out for the recent referendum on Scottish independence shows that people will turn out if they care about an issue and believe they can make a difference. This lesson needs to be learnt and applied to all other elections.
Continuing Mr Allen said: “Our report on voter engagement considers some radical changes, like compulsory voting, online voting, and extending the franchise to younger people, because we believe a serious problem needs serious answers. We hope our report shows that Parliament is waking up to this issue by calling for radical change. We are asking the public to seriously consider the proposals we put forward in our report and give us their views on what would work – what would engage you? What would make it easier for you to get out and vote? And care about voting? - so we can put forward the best recommendations in a final report ahead of the 2015 general election.”
The proposals the Committee is inviting views on include:
- Making voting compulsory in some elections, with an option to “abstain” or vote for “none of the above”
- Extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds
- Modernising electoral administration by considering options such as automatic registration, letting people register on the day of an election, online voting and many more
- Reforming party structures to better engage with the public
- Looking at how the media and politics can interact for the greater good of a healthy democracy
- Taking forward decentralisation and devolution so the electorate can engage much more in deciding their own affairs
- Doing more to increase registration for those people under represented on the electoral registers—including young people, British citizens living overseas, commonwealth and EU citizens and members of some Black and Minority Ethnic groups
The Committee plans to produce a final report on voter engagement in the New Year, informed by the responses it receives on the conclusions and recommendations set out in this report.
Contribute to the discussion
The Committee welcomes written submissions on any or all of the conclusions and recommendations set out in its report on pages 82 to 94. The Committee would particularly welcome submissions from organisations that have sought the views of their members. The deadline for written submissions is Friday 9 January 2014. Submissions can be as short as you wish but it would be helpful if they did not significantly exceed 3,000 words unless this has been cleared in advance with the Committee secretariat. Written responses to the Committee will usually be treated as evidence to the Committee and may be published. If you object to your response being made public, please make this clear when it is submitted.